Monday, October 27, 2014

Home Truths About Gels & Sports Drinks




Facebook has struck again! Yes, this time I got into an argument with a lady on the dietitian's association Facebook page. Cutting a long story short the argument came to a point about sports nutrition and the use of sports drinks and gels.

This lady (which shall not be named) was a self appointed “health expert” who believed that they were “toxic” and not suitable for anyone because of the sugar content, and certainly not suitable for athletes.

Ahh, I bite my tongue because this topic grinds my gears so much!

Instead of ranting on Facebook, here is my science-backed response (click on the highlighted links for the studies) and my position on sports drinks and gels.

Gels are highly concentrated sources of carbohydrates with a gel like consistency designed for use in endurance-based events. It’s a mixture of simple carbs both fructose and glucose with flavouring for quick and easy digestibility. The gels are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and provide immediate energy for exercise performed >1hr.

In terms of performance alone we know it’s enhanced when at least 20g of carbohydrate is taken 30min before a racing event for long and short distances. A gel may be more tolerable to take than food with those with a weak stomach pre competition.  See a study link here 
Performance is also enhanced if carbohydrate is ingested throughout the event in 30-45min intervals especially for long distance events like marathons or long course triathlon.  These event last >2hrs + they are event where you will run out of glycogen stores. If this happens forget about racing, because you’ll crawling- literally.

Research has found that gels containing a little bit of protein are actually a better choice as they extend performance for longer. I have blogged about using leucine in endurance based events here. When using these products make sure you wash it down with water to prevent dehydration.

Sports drinks are a mixture of glucose and fructose sugar in a 6% carbohydrate solution. In studies this combination has shown the maximum uptake of carbohydrates possible producing the best results in sprint cycling trials and also other endurance based events.

In addition to this because of the water volume in the sports drink it helps with rehydration. It is difficult to get the concentration right with a home recipe but you can try a mix of maltodextrin mixed with fruit juice.  Basically for long distance sports you need SUGAR. 

Yes SUGAR!

Now you can try to go all voodoo and do weird stuff and make life hard for yourself by making weird and wonderful naturally "organic" bars. But for most athletes it’s unnecessary. You may want to consider the alternatives if you get bowel upset using fructose based gels.

I agree if you have IBS or similar, you need to find something that works. However for people who don't have these issues I don't see the point of simply swapping a sugar for another sugar just of it's perceived health halo, when essentially it's all the same. 

To do endurance based sports you need sugar in the system regularly if you want to perform well. Regardless of what the low carb dieter advocates tell you, I am yet to see an athlete perform better on a low carb diet. 

As for general health, using sports drinks and gels for sporting occasions that are extreme, isn’t going to compromise your health.  It’s a short period of time in your life when you have specific needs.

However drinking sports drinks when you don’t play sport, or are merely working out at the gym trying to lose weight, well then  it would be not a great choice and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Keep in mind that sports drinks where designed and are marketed for sports, so use them appropriately and in the right context.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What You Can Learn By Mucking Around In Trees


This weekend I found myself out doors at a newly opened tree climbing Adventure Park. You can find Tree adventures in Richmond.  It’s a very nice and quite place with a beautiful backdrop view of the Grose river park.

I think this type of activity is very character building, and fantastic for both kids and adults to see what really happens during times of adversity.

I found it really amusing how I would mentally talk to myself when I came up to each and every obstacle. I’m not afraid of heights, however preconceived ideas on the way some of the obstacles looked when I approached them really played on my mind.




When I approached each obstacle, I thought- how am I going to do that? But I reasoned with myself every time, to just jump in and give it a try, giving myself the option to bail after I finished the course I was on.

You know what? I didn’t bail. I made it though to the highest level- the ultimate black course. Each time I tried, I figured it out and it wasn’t so bad any more. I got through it, and better still I realised the obstacles weren’t so hard as I made it out to be.

Though out life in general when things change or are new, things always seem hard at the start. When the expectation is to just get through it, I always find myself on the other end, contemplating how easy it was.

This is something that we all need to learn in one-way or another. If we always stay in the comfort zone when never experience this degree of hardship where we feel pressured to problem solve and give things a try.



This was one of the worst ones for me, hoping from hanging log to log, which varied in heights and angles. I screamed at one point when I almost slipped off.

It was interesting to watch a few younger kids along the obstacle course struggle with the concept of problem solving without their parents near by or trying to “fix” things.

One little girl was on the course with her father, he went first along the flying fox. Then she had to figure out how to clip into the cable. With all dads coaching from 20m down the flying fox, it took her about 15min to figure out what to do. The results where amazing. She had such a sense of pride and a huge smile on her face when she finally figured it out.




Some times I think these days too many kids are wrapped up in cotton wool and not given the time to experience small difficulties in which they can learn life lessons. This active out door activity is a great opportunity for kids to learn valuable skills in life, in a fun environment. Where people are forgiving and want to help you out if things go wrong.

Not to mention tree climbing it is great for increasing motor development and full body strength, perfect for adults too!

All in all, I recon you should check it out, if you like heights, that is. If not take the kids down, they’ll be occupied for a good 2hrs meanwhile you can sit back at the cafĂ© drink some coffee or picnic on the grass.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weight Bigotry


Ahh this is a topic that really makes me mad and sad all at the same time.  This week I was involved with an online discussion with a group of personal trainers.

The article posted was short but sweet. This lady has been a newly appointed public health minister in Belgium, and basically it was saying because she is obese she is incompetent in doing a good job. I mean if she can’t take care of her own health, how can she even think about public health policy?


Then the ignorant comments flowed from some very insightful personal trainers:




News flash the picture and article had said nothing about this women’s intellect or her ability to successfully or not put together public health initiatives. It’s weight bigotry by it’s finest. What’s even more disappointing is it’s coming from people who claim to be at the forefront of health and fitness.

I should add that there were a few personal trainers who stood up with me to highlight how such comments are complete and utter non-sense.  

What we must realise is that there are many reasons why people are over weight and obese. Some of which are out of a person’s control read my blog about that here

GASP! They aren’t all lazy sods!

In addition to this how can you determine if this lady does or doesn’t exercise? or eat properly? All these dangerous assumptions, from one small picture.

Just like a personal trainer who doesn’t have ripped abs, ripped abs doesn’t determine how good their personal training skills are. Nor does it determine their ability to help people with whatever goal they have.

If this lady is so incompetent and “not to be trusted” how did she get given the role in the first place? Surely merit, a CV about previous work in that area of health has nothing to do with it.

The more we victimise obese people the more we fuel weight discrimination. This doesn’t help anyone. When you tell people over and over again that they are worthless, they stop trying. How can some one develop trust if you haven’t even giving them a chance?

Equally I know a few skinny personal trainers and Dr’s who are equally incompetent.  Weight - large or small has nothing to do with level of competence. Competence is based on skill, putting together public policy in accordance to the countries law is a skill. Weight management is not a skill.

The idea that we can’t trust an obese person is prejudice. Just like how people assumed certain races are dumb because of the colour of their skin.  It’s plain old PREJUDICE.

Looks like some of us are still stuck in the Neanderthal era.

We are all human and capable of being empathetic, at least this lady in a power of health is in a position to identify were health initiatives are needed. Maybe being discriminated against because of her weight makes her the prime person to identify useful health initiatives that will aid people who struggle with their weight. – Just a thought?

Besides public health involves every thing from sexual health, to dental care, elderly and malnutrition, to hospital standards, funding etc , not just healthy weight initiatives. Which mind you has been shown to be one of the causes of ever increasing eating disorders.

I’ve been weight discriminated against many times, mainly from other so-called fitness professionals.  Comments like:

 “Being a dietitian I thought you’d be skinner and have less body fat. You don’t look like a dietitian” – Comment from a trainer on one of my Youtube videos

“You don’t suit our dance group because your too large, it’s hard for me to say this because of your profession”- Via email from a dancer and personal trainer

“You look fat how can you be a Zumba instructor?”- comment on a Youtube video from a fellow Facebook follower who was a Zumba instructor.

I am below the average size for women at a normal size 12. I weigh 72kg and train for a minimal of 2-3hours a day. I eat a healthy calorie controlled diet.  Now tell me I’m fat again, because I didn’t hear you the first time- ignorant sods!

Think before you speak, people come in all different shapes and sizes. As a health professional it’s not your job to judge people on their weight. It’s your job to listen and help them with their goals. Get educated about obesity and what people go through socially and emotionally.

It’s not about you, and comparing anyone else with your ability to self restrain. Good on you if you can maintain a body weight that’s socially acceptable, but take your personal agenda out of it.

Be inclusive, not exclusive and take your prejudice elsewhere!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why You Need To Be Accountable



One thing I have noticed with dealing with my clients on a daily basis is accountably is powerful. It may be for weight loss or completing an exercise program,  whatever the situation being accountable works.

I know for myself when I have to hand in an article to a magazine on a deadline, knowing that someone is going to read my work and critique it means I try extra hard.  I think it’s the innate feeling of not letting any one down and seeking approval that gets me going.

Now I am not saying that seeking approval from others all the time is healthy, because it’s not. There as to be some sort of internal drive that makes you want to try hard for yourself too. However knowing that we are approval seeking humans to a certain degree, is something to use to your advantage to get shit done!

There are many ways of being accountable to yourself, some ideas that come to mind are:
  • Keeping a food diary or daily exercise journal
  • Logging on to a goal achieving app
  • Having a date in mind when you will compete your goal


The above points are also ways that you can goal set. I written about smart goal setting before. Goals give you a set time frame and a realistic expectation of what needs to be done. You might even want to take your goal setting even further by writing out an actionable time line for a few months to keep you on track.

On the flip side our external accountability can come from:

  • Reporting your goals and achievements to a family member or friend
  • Having set appointments with your health practitioner and turning up to the appointment for review
  • Checking in with your health care provider with a weekly email about your progress


These are just some ideas I do with my clients that I find works a treat. When your seeking help and a sounding board with some one else make sure they are good listeners and non-judgmental. 



Being accountable to some one doesn’t mean you should get berated when you don’t do as well as hoped. Times like this can be used more positively to discuss why something didn’t go to plan. Picking up barriers to your achievements and working through these is important for long-term success. Don’t let someone tell you your making excuses!

People don’t make excuses, they have genuine barriers.  


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